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Weekly Speaker Program

April 9, 2018: Al-Karim Walli, Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta.     website

Our guest speaker was introduced most eloquently by Saadat Keshavjee. Our guest, Al-Karim Walli, was first introduced as an engineer and the club members began to warm up to our speaker almost immediately! Well, at least the engineers did!

Al-Karim Walli is associate director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta. The Libin Institute coordinates all cardiovascular science research, education, and patient care across both Alberta Health Services (Calgary Zone) and the University of Calgary. Al-Karim’s role at the institute includes leading the secretariat across a variety of core functions, but can be summarized as enabling the work of others, breaking silos by connecting people, and sharing stories along the way. An engineer by training, and a long-serving community volunteer in the areas of education and leadership, Al-Karim is also a co-author of Hearts, Minds & Vision: Roots of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute Alberta.

Al-Karim Walli started by thanking Calgary West Rotary for its donation through the Calgary Flames Foundation now several years ago. Through a series of slides, with many old but interesting pictures, Mr Walli was able to weave an interesting and prestigious tale of successes in the history of the establishment of cardiovascular services in Calgary that exist today.

The vision of the Libin Institute is to provide a superb, efficient, integrated program of cardiovascular wellness, health care, research, and education.

Their mission: the Institute will be a model program of cardiovascular care from health promotion and disease prevention, through diagnosis and treatment, to rehabilitation and palliation in an environment that fosters the generation of new knowledge and education of new practitioners and scientists. It is committed to integrating research, education and clinical care through collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches.

Their responsibilities encompass a broad base with over 175 basic research, clinician, and clinical research members. 1,500 health professionals in southern Alberta are managed through the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and over 2,000,000 people are served in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

There are many cardiovascular care service locations across our city, including all the major hospitals and the Talisman Centre. Heart disease is the number one killer of all human kind. The rates of diabetes and obesity have greatly increased since 1984. These conditions lead to kidney and cardiovascular problems.

In a series of old photos, Al-Karim unveiled the history of cardiovascular services in Calgary. Dr E. P. Scarlett was the first heart specialist in Calgary. He arrived in 1956. In the first 10 years, he received one referral. Dr John Morgan and Dr L. Logan were the first cardiologists. There is some debate about who came first. Dr George Miller was the first cardiac surgeon. We saw a picture of the Foothills Hospital in 1965, not yet opened, in a large field with very little development around it. In a distant northerly field, we saw the developed University of Calgary. Look at it today! Foothills opened in 1966 and the medical school opened there in 1970. In 1972, the health sciences building opened. In 1973, Premier Peter Lougheed opened the atrium at the Foothills Hospital and now the atrium is no more, since it is physically filled in, with many different services, proofs of the program’s growth inside and out.

Al-Karim Walli talked about an interesting history of leadership in cardiology. He used the analogy of electricians, plumbers and mechanics. The Institute can reference a long line of successes and innovations in cardiac physiology like 3D mapping. Harvard was the first and Foothills was the second to use techniques for 3D mapping that corrects the electrical network in the heart. He told the story of a pregnant women who could not have traditional surgery and a 17-year boy. Both were able to carry on with their lives because of this innovation and expertise in this area. The lady now has a healthy baby and the 17-year-old went on to win a silver medal in speed skating in the Olympics only days after the procedure. These were examples of the electricians.

The plumbers were interventional cardiologists. In 1977, coronary angioplasty was introduced by Dr Merril Knudtson. He was trained to do angioplasty and came back to Calgary to practise. He introduced the procedure and became a trainer conducting workshops for over 30 years. This was another example of bridging research and education with care delivery.

The mechanics program started with a ventricular assist device (sort of an artificial heart). Calgary was the first to establish protocols so that patients awaiting life-saving procedures (transplants) could be discharged using this type of device. He showed a 29-year-old man playing golf with the device, something that was not recommended! Cardiac surgeons also developed a superglue for open-chest surgery called Kryptonite. This superglue allowed bone growth and healing, resulting in less pain post-surgery than earlier techniques.

Cummins Medical School has trained many top-notch doctors and has esteemed alumni. There are two areas of priority: chronic disease and biomedical engineering. Many doctors were referenced by Mr Walli using pictures and stories, leaving us with a feeling of competency and pride. He concluded his talk and answered a few questions.

A question was asked about facilities for their programs. While there is a capacity at South Campus which is not yet utilized for more advanced procedures, the Foothills Hospital is the main facility. Transplants are only done in Edmonton. Malcolm Harrison lauded the program from personal experience.

Des DeFreitas thanked the speaker. He professed that his mind wandered during the talk to songs all about the heart, love songs and inspirational songs.

He thanked Al-Karim Walli for bringing us some inspirational knowledge about our Calgary resources and for expanding our knowledge by showcasing the Libin Cardiovascular Institute. He announced several programs that are available free to the public if we want to learn more. Libin 101 is a free educational series that educates and engages the public on health and prevention. There was a presentation that evening, April 9, at Fish Creek Library. Another presentation will be made on May 23 at the Saddletowne Library. Another program was about surfing the web for medical issues. Please contact Des for the details or surf the web if you are interested. The Boltman was presented in fine style.

  • Al-Karim Walli, Des DeFreitas, and Ben Kormos Al-Karim Walli, Des DeFreitas, and Ben Kormos
  • Al-Karim Walli, Des DeFreitas, and Ben Kormos Al-Karim Walli, Des DeFreitas, and Ben Kormos

reported by Marie Rickard

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